Redwood History: Redwood Family Papers, 1710-1999

March 24, 2016, 10:42 am

For this week’s Redwood History, and due to a very interesting question on our Instagram page, we decided to take a look inside the Collection of Redwood Family Papers, most of which dates from 1729 to 1796. There are personal letters, financial statements and deeds, as well as little insights into the everyday life and sense of humor of this family – like the poems written by Thomas Ward to his friends.


Of special importance to the Redwood Library are a few letters that concern the purchasing of our books in London. One such letter, signed by John Noble (John Thomlinson) the agent who went to England to purchase the Library’s original collection, is dated September 9, 1748 and includes this postscript:

“Please to acquaint the gentlemen of ye Library that ye Bill for £500 & Catalogue for Books Came to hand & I hope my Master will soon be able to Write ‘em.”


Although not always included in the Redwood Family history, the women of the family played an important role in the success of their families, and also in helping to record colonial life. We thought it important to mention them as we wrap up Women’s History Month.  Included in the Redwood Family Papers is the last will and testament of Sarah Pope Redwood, wife of William Redwood. William Redwood was the son of Abraham and his second wife, Patience Howland.


Dated July 12, 1796, Sarah, then a widow, sets down her remarkable wealth and divides it almost entirely among other women. The first person mentioned in her will, her cousin Sophia Haight of New York, received the following items:

1 silver teapot

1 bed and bedding

1 suit white Damask curtains

1 pair blankets

1 pair Holland sheets

1 Damask tablecloth

1 bureau table

1 large round tea table

1 large Clawfoot  Mahogany Dinner table

1 pair sconce looking-glasses

6 Black Walnut chairs

1 gold watch and equipage

1 white satin gown

1 white satin petticoat

1 white Dimitty skirt

1 fire screen

1 white Muslin gown

1 dozen pans

1 pair flat irons

1 large Turky carpet

1 bedspread

1 pair brass-topped hand irons

1 blue satin-quilted petticoat

1 white satin cloak

6 china cups and saucers

6 Damask napkins

6 burnt china plates


Another interesting find within the Redwood Family Papers is an undated embroidery sample, most likely from the eighteenth century. It depicts the most delicate blue flowers, and the neat stitching of a trained hand. Thanks to whoever saved this tiny piece of fabric with practice stitching on it, we can look back and learn about the women who lived not only in early Newport, but also in early America.


The Redwood Library has numerous sources available on the subject of needlework, if you would like to learn more please search “needlework” in our catalog. If you would like to learn more about the Redwood Library’s holdings of Redwood family items, you may search the catalog, or our collections database here:


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